Wish Books For Gardeners

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Baker Creek is one of many fine heirloom seed companies

Long before the online Amazon Empire obliterated its brick and mortar rival, the retail world was ruled by many overlords. The competitive realm of consumer market place was battled over by several independent kingdoms. Some of the most prominent among them were the legendary houses of Ward, Penney, Sears and Roebuck. Their primary weapon in this commercial warfare was the mail order catalog.  These glossy behemoths were deployed annually thru the postal service. They were similar to another artifact from that low tech age, the phone book. They were big and heavy.  They made mail carriers groan.

As many of us recall, one such specialized catalog was eagerly anticipated each year by children, especially rural children like myself. Growing up surrounded by acres of row crop fields planted in alfalfa, corn, and beans typically meant little contact with the big department stores. Access to the “big boxes” of the day like K Mart was a 60 mile round trip drive for us. That may not seem very far, but middle class folks didn’t travel that distance to shop as routinely as they do today.  In regards to those boys and girls who lived in bigger cities, the dedicated “Toyland” marketing concept of today hadn’t yet been fully capitalized.

So it was that the arrival of the annual Wish Book catalogs became a part of the Christmas tradition in many homes. Though its a relic of the past, I still cherish the memories of paging thru them. Marking the toys I hoped would find a spot under the

tree began shortly after they arrived in the mailbox around Thanksgiving. The catalog that likely sticks out in the memories of most of us from that era was the Sears issue. They had Winnie the Pooh and his cartoon cohorts on board to entice young eyes. To this day, whenever I encounter a Pooh reference, I think back to those catalogs. That’s some effective marketing.

Children grow into adults, and some adults grow into gardeners. In a way, there are Christmas Wish Books for growers too. I’m referring, of course, to the yearly seed catalogs. They arrive approximately at the same time of year as the children’s version once did. The products advertised inside do not deliver their payoff until many months after we celebrate Christ’s birth. However, they do fill hearts with anticipation, and heads with spectacular images. Not of dancing gum drops. Not of GI Joe action figures or Barbie Dolls,  but of produce. Spectacular, beautiful, organic, nutritious, abundant produce. They may even inspire wonderment at what the fruit and vegetables in the Garden of Eden must have looked like.

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That’s right, God created a garden. We tend to forget that. It’s pretty awe inspiring if you stop and think about it. Eden actually existed somewhere on this third stone from the sun that we call earth. Maybe the acreage it covered is now an ocean floor. Or perhaps its a dense, tropical jungle. Or maybe its even where some housing development sits. It would seem logical that the great flood would have destroyed it. But anything is possible with God.  Maybe it remains as it was, and is now hidden with cherubim (angels) guarding the entrance as we last read about it in Genesis 3.:24.

Without this garden, the original garden, there would be no seed catalogs serving as a warm up act to spring. When they arrive, it reminds me that God created mankind, and placed him in the garden, to be gardeners. I share the belief which others have expressed that He intended for us to be agrarian. To be mostly rural rather than urban dwellers. To commune with him as producers of our own food rather than just consumers of it. The older I get, the more I can recognize the wisdom in this.

Even though I utilize very few of them, the annual mailing of the seed catalogs has in my mind become an annual rite of winter. In the midst of the busy “holy day” season, they arrive to remind me of what I am, what I was created for, and who I belong to. They function also as a herald. While our minds are occupied with Christmas planning and shopping lists, the seed catalogs remind us that it will go fast. They assure us that no matter what January, February or March throw at us, spring is still faithfully lingering around the corner. With April comes an even greater season. Its typically the time of rebirth, regrowth, and most importantly, the celebration of redemption.

Amazing really. All that from a humble Wish Book for gardeners.  Its likely that most of you have never viewed seed catalogs, or gardening in general, like this before. Its likely that you never will again. Maybe the catalog makers need a marketing angle to help you remember. Somebody get Pooh’s agent on the line.

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